By Ejiofor Alike
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has stated that Nigerian constitution does not expressly or impliedly provides that a Mace shall be provided before the Senate or House of Representatives or any other legislative house can sit and conduct legislative business.Â
Reacting to last Wednesdayâ€™s invasion of theÂ Senate by five disgruntled young men, who snatched the mace in a commando like operation, Falana said in a statement yesterday that by virtue of section 54 of the Constitution, either of two Â houses of the national assembly is competent Â to sit and conduct proceedings once the quorum of the members is formed.
According to him, the said quorum is one-third of all the members of the legislative house concerned.
Falana added that in all the previous cases in which the impeachment of state governors were annulled and set aside by the Supreme Court and other courts, it was due to the failure of the houses of assembly concerned to comply with the provision for quorum, which is two-thirds of all the members in line with section 188 of the Constitution.
â€œNowhere in the constitution is it expressly or impliedly provided that a Mace shall be provided before the Senate or House of Representatives or any other legislative house can sit and conduct legislative business,â€ Falana said.Â
The rights activist noted that since the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria in May 1999, several houses of assembly have been shut down due to the disappearance of the Mace, which is believed to be the Â authority of every legislative house in the country.
Falana stated that in many instances, legislators have been injured while trying to snatch or protect the Mace.
â€œIn fact, the Mace in the Senate was once removed and taken away to a remote village in one of the states in the South east region where it was hidden for weeks to prevent senators from reconvening to carry out the planned impeachment of the Senate president at that material time.Â But at the end of the day, his colleagues produced another Mace and proceeded to remove him from office,â€ Falana said.Â
The lawyer said it was curious that the National Assembly has not deemed it fit to enact a law to protect the Mace, which is so regularly snatched or stolen by legislators, stressing that the suspects that invaded the Senate may be charged under the Legislative Powers (Powers and Privileges) Act.
He argued that the Mace is not a prerequisite for parliamentary business in Nigeria.Â
â€œIn other words, the proceedings of a legislative house cannot be invalidated because of the absence of a Mace.â€ Â
â€œAs a colonial legacy the Mace was part of the Nigerian parliament in 1960 when the Queen of England was our Head of State. Even when the nation became a Republic in 1963 under an indigenous President the paraphernalia of office and title of the Speaker of the British Parliament were fully retained. That was how Â the Mace which is a symbolic authority of the parliament under a monarchical government was adopted by our Republican parliament.Â Even though Nigeria adopted the presidential system of government since 1979 our legislators have continued to retain the vestiges of the Westminster parliamentary system,â€ Falana explained.Â